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First openly gay Episcopal bishop in US to divorce husband

NEW YORK--The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, who became a symbol for gay rights far beyond the church while deeply dividing the world's Anglicans, plans to divorce his husband.

Bishop Gene Robinson has never been fully accepted within the more than 70 million-member Anglican Communion, which is rooted in the Church of England and represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church.

Robinson announced the end of his marriage to Mark Andrew in an email sent to the Diocese of New Hampshire, where he served for nine years before retiring in 2012.

Robinson would not disclose details about the end of their 25-year relationship but wrote Sunday in The Daily Beast he owed a debt to Andrew “for standing by me through the challenges of the last decade.”

“It is at least a small comfort to me, as a gay rights and marriage equality advocate, to know that like any marriage, gay and lesbian couples are subject to the same complications and hardships that afflict marriages between heterosexual couples,” Robinson wrote. “All of us sincerely intend, when we take our wedding vows, to live up to the ideal of 'til death do us part. But not all of us are able to see this through until death indeed parts us.”

Robinson declined to comment further Sunday to The Associated Press.

The bishop endured death threats during his 2003 consecration and intense scrutiny of his personal life, and in 2006, he sought treatment for alcoholism. His election prompted some Episcopal dioceses and parishes to break away and establish the Anglican Church in North America with other theological conservatives overseas. Robinson was barred in 2008 by then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams from the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade global meeting of all Anglican bishops, as Williams struggled to find a way to keep Anglicans united.

But Robinson was also widely celebrated as a pioneer for gay rights, became an advocate for gay marriage and was the subject of several books and a documentary about Christianity, the Bible and same-sex relationships. He delivered the benediction at the opening 2009 inaugural event for U.S. President Barack Obama and, after retirement, became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank with close ties to the White House.

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In this photo released by the Episcopal Dioceses of New Hampshire, Mark Andrew, left, and Bishop V. Gene Robinson are shown during their private civil union ceremony performed by Ronna Wise in Concord, New Hampshire on June 7, 2008.

(AP)

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